wait a moment

Pamela Z at Constellation

by Deidre Huckabay

Photo by Tim Porter

pamela sings
and also doubles triples quadruples her voice using live electronics, namely
two stationary optical controllers that she operates by waving her hands near them
her ring fingers ever so slightly straighter and more independent than the others
in making smallish birdlike fluid movements
sometimes like she’s tapping taut invisible strings
sometimes like she’s dipping tiny spoons into tiny bowls
sometimes like she’s pulling needles from pincushions
she attaches smaller optical controllers to her hands
little plastic guys with little red lights
like tennis wristbands
like Apple watches
like little pet birdies
no wires
but she moves with them like she’s suspended by puppet strings
kind of, sometimes
other times she holds her hands in a contemplative mudra
other times a vogue
other times a breaststroke

once i guess literally
she conjured an invisible typewriter
moving her hands as though on a keyboard
and provoking first the clicking clacking of the keys
then the resounding dinging of the return lever
she narrated the letter as she typed
“dear pen pal”
she writes
“my computer is broken”

augmented by a virtual reality of her own design
pamela is infinitely
later, a microphone records her breath
sowing it with those magic seeds
it grows and multiplies
in the quickest imaginable gestation
or fermentation
delay on delay on delay
“i was breathing”
she sings
tossing off a crisp baroque-sounding melisma

do you know about calvino’s six memos for the next millennium?
if not, that’s ok of course
you don’t need somebody to tell you what to read
but think about it it’s a v good read
anyway even still you do know about them
because iPhones don’t have headphone jacks anymore
because anybody who has been in a plane has already seen a city (probably their city) from above
because the makers of washer/dryers are competing to create the cutest possible alert jingles
and because any sound can be any other sound
just by virtue of plugging one thing into another thing

calvino died in 1985
before he could finish the sixth memo but also
before email
before genome mapping
before body-machine interfaces
but he saw weightless bits of software
operating machines everywhere
and observed that even Lucretius
used knowledge of the world
to dissolve the solidity of the world
or to put it another way
that lightness
is one way of making meaning
in the twenty-first century
along with
(and consistency)

“the marks left on pavement”
pamela sings
[the marks left on pavement by those gunpowder flares
like the emergency flares truckers keep in their cabs?
or don’t policemen keep them in their cruisers?]
are like “doves’ footprints”
“broken swastikas”
“a secret code”
through that special
magical quickness
everything is like everything else

the thing is that magic is complicated
is it magic?
like, magic
like, magic
like, magic
seriously, click:
like, magic
like, magic
or, magic
honestly what is it about david blaine
that makes people run away from him all the time?
the thing about magic is that it exploits a secret hope
that heavy things can be lifted
that your hand can withstand an icepick running through it
that there’s a hundred bucks inside or under every single in your wallet
that magic is real
the thing is
magic manipulates that desire
while also denying, exposing, frustrating it
enforcing clear boundaries
the magician on one hand
you on another
magic an elevated reality
your life a drag
creating a false world
a wonderland
redirecting your attention while it tidies the place
and ok fine wonderlands are beautiful
but the crime of magic is that it hides the mess
and lets you know that it does
while still encouraging you to feel hopeful
that magic is real
while it is not

pamela z is not a magician
but there is a similar redirection
in a roomful of charming electronic birds
i notice late in the game that i haven’t heard many of her words
splashing in muddy delay puddles
and that the form of each tune has been determined by the limitations of her instruments
that she bends to them
not the other way around
in one moment i wonder:
how are these not just
the box has a false bottom
the table is over a trap door
again and again loops accumulate gradually then suddenly bottom out
a terse coda

in performance and in her bedside manner
pamela is poised and articulate
her movements making long lines
she is sweet and confident
for a moment it seems a video won’t play
she and we all meet the glitch with a kind of warm curiosity
a positive, encouraging good will
more than once the same bratty computer throws a screen saver onto the projection screen
pamela’s screen saver is a series of stills
duchamp’s works
cage’s scores
that tall and narrow handwriting in felt tip pen
all ken burnsed
later she giggles when a mic doesn’t work

after the show everyone crowds around
the pair of tables onstage, the two controllers, the wristbands
she points gently at an instrument
and everyone in the room leans in
in unison
as if connected by invisible strings
as if by magic


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